Riding down memory lane, alumni rodeo is today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2012

Michelle Murphy (left), of Foley, and Amy Jernigan (right) will compete in the inaugural alumni rodeo event today. They are shown here with Squirrel (center). | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Michelle Murphy and Amy Jernigan will ride down memory lane today in the inaugural alumni rodeo at the Covington Center Arena.

The Alabama High School Rodeo Association began in 1979, and Murphy, a Robertsdale native and Foley resident, said she started rodeoing in 1982.

“I started in my ninth grade year,” Murphy said. “I’ve ridden horses my whole life.

“My step dad (Bo Campbell of Bo Campbell Rodeo Productions), who’s a stock trader, all of his kids and sons have done it, and so I began to do it,” she said. “He’s rodeoed forever, so that’s how I got started in it.”

The alumni rodeo will begin at 8:30 a.m., today, with check-in 30 minutes prior at the arena.

Murphy said when the AHSRA got started, there weren’t many kids competing.

“We would have a rodeo on Sunday somewhere after a professional rodeo,” she said. “Parents would put on everything, and it was just like a big family effort to get it going. Everybody helped everybody. It was just so much fun.”

After her freshman year, Murphy kept competing in the rodeo. Back then, she said the rodeo didn’t run on the accumulated points system that it runs on now.

“When you did your finals that was it,” she said.

However, in Murphy’s senior year in high school, the points system started up. In her senior season, she finished as an all-around cowgirl in five events.

When asked why she likes the rodeo, Murphy said it was her “dream” to rodeo as a kid.

“Everybody, when they’re little, not just all girls, they just like horses,” she said. “Everybody’s got an inner cowboy or cowgirl; To get to do this, it’s just such a privilege. It’s something you dream about getting to do.

“You just feel like you’re part of something that we started here in this country,” she said. “It kind of makes you feel like John Wayne.”

More than five years ago, Jernigan, a Bay Minette native, ran her run at the AHSRA state finals in the arena.

She said it’s going to be interesting to do so again today in the alumni rodeo.

“I’m looking forward to (today),” Jernigan said. “The last time I ran a horse that I was running was in 2007, when I was here.

“It’s really neat to come back six years later,” she said.

The horse that Jernigan rode on in 2007 will be saddled up for today’s alumni event. Her horse’s name is Squirrel.

Jernigan, like any rodeo lover, has ridden horses her entire life. Her mother trained horses.

In eighth grade, Jernigan said she began to compete in the barrel racing event because, in Bay Minette, people noticed she had good balance and could ride a horse pretty well.

Jernigan went to Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette for two years, and then was home schooled for her final two years to focus on the rodeo. She is now enrolled at Troy University.

For Jernigan and Murphy, competing in today’s alumni rodeo will bring back a lot of “memories” from their earlier days in competition.

“I haven’t competed in 20 years,” Murphy said. “My kids always had ponies and stuff, so it’ll bring back a lot of good memories. I don’t care if I’m any good. I’m just going to go out there and have fun.”